Have you ever wondered what the self-made richest people on Earth studied in university? I have. So, I decided to find out.
I looked at Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people and filtered out those who are not mostly self-made. The Forbes 400 has a self-made score, a rank from 1-10 that measures how much wealth and privilege people started out with. So, Oprah Winfrey, for example (who doesn’t make this list because she’s way down on the Forbes list) gets a 10, because she rose up from pretty much nothing. Jim Walton, meanwhile, who is #9 on the Forbes list gets a 2, because he was born into the Walmart fortune. So, he doesn’t make this list either. Neither do his sister Alice or sister in law Christy, which means this list features only men. Don’t blame me. I didn’t hand out the fortunes.
But they only have the rank for America’s richest, so not everyone has one.
Anyway. So, what did they study at school? Well, if there is an overlying theme, the answer is: nothing. Six of the top ten either dropped out of or never attended college/university. Of those who attended, whether or not they got degrees, you can probably guess what the most popular majors are. Read on to find out if you’re right.
Here are the top ten (mostly self made) richest people in the world, according to Forbes, and their university majors.
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Founder of Microsoft, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEO of Cascade Investment
Net worth: $82.1 Billion
Major: Pre-law – drop out
Programmer-turned business tycoon, Gates, started at Harvard as a pre-law major in 1973, but soon shifted focus, quickly ran through “the university’s most rigorous mathematics and graduate level computer science courses,” says NPR, then dropped out and founded Microsoft.
Carlos Slim Helu
Chairman & CEO of Telmex, América Móvil and Grupo Carso
Net worth: $79.9 Billion
Major: Civil engineering
Mexican business magnate, Slim Helu, studied civil engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico School of Engineering, where he also taught Algebra and Linear Programming at the same time. He’s known as the “Warren Buffett of Mexico,” apparently, and his fortune comes from interests in such things as communications, real estate, airlines, media, technology, retailing, and finance.
Co-founder of the Intidex group
Net worth: $57.7 Billion
Fashion mogul, Ortega, didn’t pursue higher education. As a young teen he started working as a shop hand for a shirtmaker in his hometown of La Coruna. He then started a business making and selling bathrobes before opening his first Zara store in 1975.
CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Net worth: $70.4 Billion
Major: Business administration, economics
In 1947, at age 16, Buffett – a.k.a. The Oracle of Omaha – enrolled at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as a business major. After two years he transferred to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where at age 20 he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. He then earned a Master of Science in economics at Columbia Business School.
CEO and founder of Oracle Corporation
Net worth: $50.3 Billion
Major: Science? – drop out
I can’t find exactly what software big shot Larry Ellison majored in, but have read that he attended the University of Illinois in the 1960s with a plan to become a doctor and that he “was named science student of the year” – maybe ironically, since the first source says he failed to maintain a C average. So, the major was probably some kind of science. He dropped out after two years and then went to the University of Chicago, “intending to pursue a degree in physics and mathematics,” but dropped out after one semester. In 1966 he moved to southern California where he eventually founded Oracle.
CEO of Bloomberg
Net worth: $35.9 Billion
Major: Electrical engineering, business administration
Financial media mogul, Bloomberg, graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, and in 1966 he received his Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He then worked at an investment bank before starting Innovative Market Systems, later to become Bloomberg L.P.
Co-founder and CEO of Facebook
Net worth: $33.3 Billion
Major: Psychology/computer science – drop out
Social media entrepreneur, Zuckerberg, studied psychology and computer science at Harvard in the early aughts. It was there that he developed “Thefacebook” – which would later become Facebook – in 2004. He eventually dropped out to focus on the project, and now basically runs the social media world at age 30.
Chairman of the Board of Cheung Kong Holdings, Hutchison Whampoa and Li Ka Shing Foundation
Net worth: $31.2 Billion
Business magnate Li Ka-shing was forced to drop out of high school in Chaozhou in Guangdong province, China, before the age of 15, after the death of this father. Li sold plastic flowers in Hong Kong in the 1950s and is now Hong Kong’s richest person. His fortune comes from – among other things – operating container terminals, health and beauty retail, supplying electricity, and developing real estate.
Chairman and CEO, Las Vegas Sands
Net worth: $30.5 Billion
Major: Corporate finance – drop out
Hotel heavyweight, Adelson, – who started a candy vending machine business at age 16 – attended City College of New York in the 1950s, majoring in corporate finance, but dropped out after less than two years. He joined the U.S. Army, worked as a court stenographer, then a mortgage broker and investment adviser, then real estate.
CEO of Google
Net worth: $30 Billion
Major: Computer engineering, computer science
Search King, Page, earned a Bachelor of Science, with honors, in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Science in computer science from Stanford University. He was enrolled in the PhD program at Stanford where he met fellow PhD candidate and future partner Sergey Brin, and the rest is internet history.